Thursday, March 23, 2023

four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three

Inspired by this tweet a month or two back to give the subject a bit of thought, I present to you now my collected Books Of The Year list wherein I nominate three from each of the years of this blog's existence (well, I only did one from 2006 as there were only a handful). Three seemed the right number to make the decision-making tricky from an average yearly sample of twenty or so. No particular rules except I tried to avoid picking two by the same author (not generally a problem) and tried not to agonise about it too much or spend too much time on it. 

The table below presents the list; I've spiced it up a little by including a piece of text (strictly unedited) from the original review which will hopefully either give a flavour of the book, ruin a key aspect of the plot, or just amuse. I may make this A Thing in future as part of the annual book round-up I try to do in January.

Year Author Title Comment
2006 Anita Shreve The Weight Of Water two parallel intertwined stories kind of story
2007 William Boyd Restless inevitable betrayals and double-crossings
TC Boyle Riven Rock traumatic formative sexual experiences
Joyce Carol Oates The Falls small fly in the ointment of her marital bliss
2008 Robertson Davies The Cunning Man all manner of throwaway literary and cultural anecdotes
F Scott Fitzgerald The Great Gatsby driving off gaily in your Hispano-Suiza, getting your scarf caught in the wire wheels and strangling yourself
Anne Tyler A Patchwork Planet all you've got left to hold the reader's attention is your actual skill at writing believable characters
2009 Iain M Banks Inversions knife missile which she uses to escape, with impressively bloody results
Cormac McCarthy The Road what will you do when you meet people who will do those things, and more
Isabel Colegate The Shooting Party ruthlessly enforced social structures and strictures preventing you from ever saying what you really think
2010 Peter Ackroyd Chatterton only employed as a model because he was working up to running off with his wife
Joyce Carol Oates We Were The Mulvaneys periodically fleeing to the next one when anyone starts to rely on her too much or show her any personal affection
Stieg Larsson The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo the obligatory secret subterranean porn dungeon for the hero to be rescued from in the nick of time as he is about to be buggered to death
2011 Kazuo Ishiguro Never Let Me Go hopefully we might carry on a bit longer, and avoid the organ-harvesting death squads
Tim Winton Cloudstreet much roistering and raging and rollicking, not to mention rucking and rogering
Patricia Highsmith The Talented Mr Ripley various psychological issues, like, you know, murdering people
2012 Iain M Banks Look To Windward but in fact on a deadly mission so secret EVEN HE DOESN'T KNOW WHAT IT IS!!!
William Boyd Ordinary Thunderstorms a man hiding in a hedge isn't really going to drive the narrative along, so we need more plot
Arkady & Boris Strugatsky Roadside Picnic the constant danger of getting arrested or shot or stumbling into a gravitational anomaly and getting turned inside-out
2013 TC Boyle Drop City a guy who can render his own bear-fat, make moose sausages and knock together a dog-sled with just a few bits of discarded porcupine guts and some whittling
Alison Lurie Foreign Affairs what sympathetic people might call "flighty", "free-spirited", "eccentric", etc., but the rest of us would just call "mental"
Ian McEwan The Innocent Progress down the tunnel towards the Russian sector continues, as does Leonard's progress down Maria's "tunnel", hem hem
2014 GB Edwards The Book Of Ebenezer Le Page all of whom disappoint him in some way with their laziness, stupidity, and embrace of modern ideas like the motor car, feminism or the television set
Russell Hoban Riddley Walker any notion of standard rules for spelling and grammar have gone out of the window, not that anyone has windows any more
Walter Tevis The Queen's Gambit eating properly, heading down the gym and, most importantly, cutting out the pints of white wine for breakfast
2015 Sebastian Faulks Birdsong getting better acquainted with Mrs. Azaire by going down on her comme une tonne de briques while René is out of the house
Richard Yates Revolutionary Road otherwise intelligent young people waking up one morning in their sterile little suburban box and realising that they don't know each other at all
Christopher Priest Inverted World necessitate a rethink of the policy of keeping the plebs ignorant of the outside world
2016 Marilynne Robinson Home before either his father dies or Jack's desire to disappear and be away from responsibility and scrutiny gets the better of him
Daniel Woodrell Winter's Bone everyone has too many guns, drinks too much hooch and is cooking up crank
EL Doctorow Ragtime falls out of a wardrobe while having a furtive wank
2017 Robertson Davies The Rebel Angels the circumstances in which he subsequently murdered McVarish during the course of an elaborate sex game
Yann Queffelec The Savage Wedding the persuasive suggestion that with Ludo gone things might get a bit spicier in the boudoir department
Kurt Vonnegut Cat's Cradle causes the sea, as well as all rivers, streams and groundwater on the planet, to solidify into ice-nine, instantly ending almost all life
2018 Russell Banks The Sweet Hereafter attach an actual face to the child in the back of the bus disappearing off a ravine into the cold murky water
LP Hartley The Go-Between they interrupt Ted giving Marian a practical farming tutorial, in particular a demonstration of some vigorous ploughing
Tom Wolfe A Man In Full a bit of a problematic Mary Sue in an otherwise unmitigated sea of arseholes
2019 Kazuo Ishiguro The Remains Of The Day Miss Kenton is wearing a sign that says AVAILABLE, or possibly RIDE ME LIKE ONE OF LORD DARLINGTON'S PRIZE MARES
Marilynne Robinson Gilead what's a respectable Reverend doing having a son in his late sixties, the randy old goat?
Iain Banks Transition one person's disastrous turn of events about which Something Must Be Done is someone else's wholly necessary and exciting developments
2020 Jim Crace Harvest ill-equipped to adapt to quickly-changing circumstances, and WAIT A MINUTE here are some circumstances quickly changing
Mark Z Danielewski House Of Leaves the fact that a corridor has just poofed into appearance out of freakin' nowhere
Alasdair Gray Lanark only if you're some sort of hopelessly gauche naïve ingénue who expects fictional narratives to follow a linear pattern, hahahaha
2021 John Christopher The Death Of Grass so a few people's lawns die, you might say, no biggie
Hilary Mantel Bring Up The Bodies actual public bloody dismemberment rather than discreet shuffling off to a nunnery
Arturo Perez-Reverte The Flanders Panel the pristine "original" work? What does that even mean? What do words, in general, even mean?
2022 China Miéville The City & The City a city (takes drag on cigarette) .... OF THE MIND. Though, erm, also totally real (coughs)
Jim Harrison The Road Home a fierce and independent girl not prepared to take any shit from anybody, including her grandfather
Tim Winton Breath all good things must come to an end, even bracingly transgressive and dangerous under-age sex

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